Tracheostomy care and complications in the intensive care unit

Crit Care Nurse. 2013 Oct;33(5):18-30. doi: 10.4037/ccn2013518.


Tracheotomy is a common procedure in intensive care units, and nurses must provide proper care to tracheostomy patients to prevent complications. One of the most important considerations is effective mobilization of secretions, and a suction catheter is the most important tool for that purpose. Each bedside should be equipped with a functional suctioning system, an oxygen source, a manual resuscitation bag, and a complete tracheostomy kit, which should accompany patients wherever they go in the hospital. Complications include infection, tracheomalacia, skin breakdown, and tracheoesophageal fistula. Tracheostomy emergencies include hemorrhage, tube dislodgement and loss of airway, and tube obstruction; such emergencies are managed more effectively when all necessary supplies are readily available at the bedside. This article describes how to provide proper care in the intensive care unit, strategies for preventing complications, and management of tracheostomy emergencies.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / administration & dosage
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / administration & dosage
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Suction / nursing
  • Tracheostomy / adverse effects
  • Tracheostomy / nursing*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Hydrogen Peroxide